HOBART is a great place to explore all the wonders of Tasmania’s fresh produce if you are over for a quick jaunt. Producers, gardeners, brewers and wine makers from all around the island have their wares for sale or for inspection at local markets and specialty stores. Of course it would be better to go to the farm gate while taking the time touring around Tassie and admiring its unique and serene landscape but if you’re short for time or only down in Hobart for a weekend and want to get a quick taste of Tasmania then here are some of the discoveries I made when I was wandering around Hobart town (and its environs) the past couple of times I have recently headed down to the Apple Isle.
Hunting for produce in Hobart
FOR the freshest apples and pears travel 40 minutes outside of Hobart and drive through Huonville and enter the Huon Valley where you will spot roadside farm gate stalls selling bags of apples at ridiculous prices. The Huon Valley is apple country and buying them is easy: pull up, collect, put money in the honesty box and munch. It’s also quite humerous seeing some of the orchards selling their wares from roadside glass – door soft drink fridges without power (as Tassie’s chilly air keeps them fresh). Pop into the Huon Apple and Heritage museum at Grove which has over 500 varieties of apples in season and if you have time trek on the Tahune Airwalk (near Geeveston) which is a 600-metre treetop walk that overlooks the forest and Huon and Picton rivers. This is the perfect day trip out of Hobart and gives you an appreciation of rural Tassie.
IT may be a curio to some or bring back memories to others but in Tasmania you can buy real milk in milk bottles. The Elgaar Farm organic full cream milk comes in a 750ml returnable glass bottle with the cream floating on top. It’s rich and creamy and tastes like the milk of yesteryear (before we had over 20 varieties and styles to choose from). The label on the bottle says it all: “Real milk produced by contented cows dining on organic grass”. You can buy it from Fresh Fruit Market (see below) or City Organics at 34 Criterion Street, Hobart.
SILVER Hill Fisch salmon sausages are one of the most divine and innovative products I have tasted for a while. Produced by young 20-something Maja Veit (who set up the business) , they come in two flavours: a Thai style or a well-balanced ginger and lemongrass flavoured sausage (my preference). They are moist, full of beautiful flaky Tassie salmon (about 90 per cent), preservative free and the gluten-free binding used doesn’t interfere with the sausage’s texture. I took two packs home with me. Cook gently (don’t overcook!). Maja also has developed a soft salmon pate and a range of aioli and mayos that complement her magnificent sausages. Silver Hil Fisch products are available from the Tas Farm Gate Market (see below), The Salmon Shop (Salamanca Square) and Raw Natural Food Store (118 King Street, Sandy Bay).
WALLABY burgers, micro herbs, pork products, Bruny Island cheeses, fresh oysters (take them away or have them while you are there), freshly tapped leatherwood honey, seasonal vegetables and a guy with over dozen varieties of potatoes (and those wonderful Silver Hill salmon sausages) – it’s all here at Tas Farm Gate Sunday Market a compact Sunday community market with portable gourmet cafe. You may even come across former food critic now author and food producer (and star of SBS’s Gourmet Farmer) Matthew Evans selling his Real Food products such as pork rilletes and pork sausages (both making the trip home to Sydney with me). Tasmanian producers sell direct and there are strict rules – all produce has to be Tasmanian, fresh and seasonal. Tas Farm Gate operates every Sunday at the Melville Street Outdoor Car Park from 9am to 1pm – rain, hail or shine, and you can get weekly updates on what is in season here.
IF you can’t make it to a Tassie outdoor market (like the famous Salamanca Market and its a given that you will go if you’re in Hobart on a Saturday), then Fresh Fruit Market is the next best thing. This fresh food grocer in a huge barn-like space has rows and rows of fresh fruit and vegetables, a wine section, deli section with slabs of Tassie meat, a huge dairy section with an array of Tasmanian cheeses and yoghurts, gourmet and ready-made meals and a really great Tasmanian honey section including Tasmanian Leatherwood honeycomb. Fresh is a great place to explore after a visit to the Salamanca area and you can find it at 41 Salamanca Place, Battery Point.
FOR more refined and gourmet-style foods from Tasmanian producers then A Common Ground is worth a visit. This fine-food store is owned by Matthew Evans and stocks Deloraine truffles, unheated ”sweet and raw” honey, olive oil, organic flours, cheeses and Evans’ own label Rare Food pork products. The shop is tucked beneath a stairway in Hobart’s Salamanca Arts Centre (near the Tricycle Cafe and Peacock Theatre).
THE Wurtshouse Kitchen is the ultimate larder. It’s a deli, a butcher/charcuterie and a premium wine and cheese shop in a beautiful store in a side street off Salamanca. It has a mind-boggling array of smoked meats, terrains, small goods, ready-made gourmet meals, Tasmanian truffles and truffled eggs (for $2) Find it at 1 Montpelier Retreat, Battery Point (off Salamanca). You can get seasonal updates from the Wursthouse Kitchen and get a sense of its range of goods here.
HILL Street Grocer is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill IGA corner supermarket. With garlic and bunches of oregano hanging from the ceiling this popular Hobart store and apparently attracts Hobart’s locals form near and far. A lot smaller than the aforementioned Fresh, but nevertheless if you are near the area it’s a good place to have a peek with its deli range, read-made meals, fresh produce and aisles of everything from the basic staples to some hidden erasures. Hill Street Grocer is at 109 Hill Street, West Hobart. About 50m up the street is award-winning Hill Street Gourmet Meats which specialises only in meat and poultry sourced from Tasmanian farms that ensure their animals are free ranging and fed on grass and natural feeds without chemicals. Along with meat cuts there are pre-prepared curries and casseroles and pies. Hill Street Gourmet Meats also recently won the gong for Australia’s best pork sausage. You can find the butcher at 125 Hill Street, (cnr Hamilton St) West Hobart.
MUSEUM of Old and New Art (MONA) – what’s one of the best private museum and art galleries in the country (if not in the world) got to do with food? Internet gambling millionaire David Walsh spent a reported $175 million to burrow deep into a cliff face to create his free underground gallery to house his marvellous collection (valued at $100 million) of everything from Egyptian mummies and Ancient Greek gold coins to a waterfall of words and masterpieces from Sidney Nolan and Brett Whitely (as well as some very confronting and squeamish contemporary art) at the Moorilla Winery a short drive or cruise north of Hobart. His burrow is also home to Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional – a machine that replicates the human digestive system (it’s a poo machine). Food is fed into a series of linked glass artificial stomachs and once a day it excretes. If you still have your appetite pop outside to the wonderful wine and beer bar to munch on a Chaurterie plate and have a Moorilla wine or a freshly poured Moo Brew. The complex is also home of The Source restaurant (as I haven’t dined there I can’t comment on it). You can drive or even catch a special boat up the Derwent River to get there. See the MONA website for more details.
LOVERS of ABC Gardening Australia should make the visit to Hobart’s Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and visit Peter Cundall’s organic vegetable garden which features regularly on the popular gardening show. The compact and lush gardens contain an array of trees and plants that are unique to Tasmania as well as the home of the Sub-Antarctic Plant House which is a building full of the mosses, lichens and grasses that are found on Macquarie Island – all kept cool at a nippy five degrees. You can even download podcasts and go on a self-guided tour taking in the highlights including the Japanese Garden; Pete’s Vegie Patch, the Herb Garden and the beautiful Conservatory. The Garden’s website includes not only the podcast but great fact sheets for growing your own organic fruit and veg. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are at the Queens Domain just 2km from the city centre.
Eating & drinking in Hobart
IF you’re hungry or ready for a hot cuppa then here are a few suggestions after all that sightseeing.
FOR a coffee, tea or hot chocolate it is hard to beat the funky and intimate Next Door Deluxe Coffee. You get the whiff of freshly ground beans as soon as you enter this little coffee shop which is decorates from floor to ceiling with old doors (including an old outside dunny one as well as old wooden bar fridge doors). Good coffee with a variety to choose from (including a weekly ‘guest bean’), as well as teas, chilli and vanilla hot chocolate, friends, Italian biscuits and lunch meals such as organic spring lamb and pearl barley soup, steamed scambled eggs, and rolls and chibata. Oh, and water is served in old one litre Coke bottles! Next Door Deluxe Coffee is at 149 Collins Street, Hobart.
ARRIVING at night at Lebrina in the inner-Hobart suburb of New Town you wonder if you are in the right place as you’re confronted by a charming 183os apricot-brick homely cottage surrounded by a hedge with an iron gate and a short path to the front wooden door. I didn’t know whether to knock or just go in, such is the place as dining at Lebrina is like dining in someone’s grand home. There also is the sense that you are about to partake in intimate old-school classic dining. The menu is short and heavily influenced by what Tasmanian produce is in season. Lebrina is regarded as Tasmania’s best restaurant and you can find my review here. Lebrina Restaurant, 155 New Town Road, New Town (Hobart).
THE New Sydney Hotel is a cosy Irish-style pub not only has an open fireplace and warm and friendly staff but also features a diverse array of craft beers proudly poured from the tap and a great gastro menu to boot. Recent menu highlights were Bruny Island hare with chestnuts, kiffler potatoes and water cress and fresh perigord truffle shaved at the table over mixed mushroom risotto; and a blood orange syrup cake with poached rhubarb and white chocolate mousse. The permanent menu is just as enticing with potato gnocchi with roasted beetroot, crispy prosciutto and marinated fetta; a Spring Bay mussel pot; wagyu rumps and the braised goat shoulder hotpot. The New Sydney updates its beer taps regularly with new and unique mainly Tassie craft beers. It’s one of those places you would love to call your local. The New Sydney Hotel is at 87 Bathurst Street Hobart.
FOR a lovely Hobart waterfront experience have some fish and chips at Constitution Dock. The Dock and wharf area has some restaurants and seafood pubs specilising in scattered around but the best thing to do is to go to one of the small pontoon outlets bobbing on the water and grab some battered flat head and chips for about $11. These little outlets (such as Flippers where I scored my seafood treasures), also offer fish burgers; fisherman’s baskets; trevella; scallops and claramari; and are popular as a lunch time alternative for Hobart business folk. Sit on one of the benches and enjoy the yachts and scenery (but watch those seagulls).
ALL dressed up and no where to go? The Republic Bar and Cafe in North Hobart is an old-school rock pub and when Aussie bands (and a few international acts) come to Hobart – they play at The Republic (I took a Taiwanese mate there to see Dave Graney play there recently). With the usual Tassie beers on tap (and a few trendy ones), The Republic attracts musos and fans from all over Tassie not only for the live music but also because it is regarded as one of the better pub restaurants in town. You can find it at 299 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart.
CARGO Bar Pizza Lounge in Salamanca is a great spot to sit and unwind with a glass (or bottle) of great Tassie wine and if you are a tad peckish – a pizza or two. This neat space with its exposed brick, polished wooden tables and benches and groovy colourful lounge area is one of the places to be in Hobart. With an impressive wine list highlighting a variety of Tasmanian wines it is popular for its pizzas – all topped with locally sourced produce. On the the couple of visits I’ve been to Cargo my favourite pizzas have been the roast beef (roast beef fillet with Huon mushroom, caramelised onion, roast capsicum, garlic aioli and rocket); Huon Valley mushroom (mushrooms, garlic, thyme, porcini paste, cheese and crème fraiche); and Harissa Lamb ( marinated lamb, harissa sauce, feta cheese, eggplant salsa, onions and tzatziki). Pizzas can also be taken away and some are available gluten free. Behave yourself on a Friday night – I have been reliably told its the place where law enforcement also tends to unwind after a week on the beat. Open t0 the early hours (unlike a lot of Hobart joints) you will find Cargo at 47 Salamanca Place, Battery Point.
THEY may not offer haute cuisine but two unique Tassie bakery chains offer good take-away fare if you are on the run. The first is Breadd which has a range of Turkish bread sandwiches and baquettes, salad rolls, dips, pastries and muffins. Apparently the baker uses biodynamic wholemeal flour and “eco-friendly” produce from Tassie. During winter it also has some great soups. You can find Breadd in Hobart at 48 Murray Street. The second is Banjos a bakery come café chain which seem to be found all over Tasmania. Banjo’s says it sources most of its ingredients from local Tasmanian suppliers and has a huge array of pastries, pies (try the King Island grain-fed beef), breakfast items such as Danishes and pide with ham and eggs, and then there are rows of sandwiches and rolls as well as a choice of soups and, of course, coffee. A great alterative if you are on the run (or you can dine in) or to pack a few pastries before hiking in the Tassie wilderness. It seems there is a Banjo’s on every corner but the central one in Hobart is at 85 Elizabeth Street.
NOTE: The Hungry Bon Vivant was not a guest of any food producer, airline, travel company, promoter or business nor did he receive or has received any favour or gratuity during or after visiting Tasmania. All produce, meals, accommodation and transport were paid from his own pocket, however Todd (a Hobart local), did lend him his car and shouted him a couple of beers at the New Sydney Hotel one night. The Hungry Bon Vivant shouted back.
The Hungry Bon Vivant supports the The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
On 28 April 1996 at the historical Port Arthur site in Tasmania, 35 people were tragically killed. Two small children, Alannah and Madeline Mikac, aged six and three, along with their mother, died that day. The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, a national charity, was created in their memory with the belief that all children should have a safe and happy childhood without being subjected to any form of violence.
The Hungry Bon Vivant supports the important work that the Alannah and Madeline Foundation does, its vision and the issues it seeks to address. For information on the Foundation’s work and vision click here.
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